Amy Louttit (3L) is an advocate and a tireless activist for the rights of homeless and unaccompanied youth. She is the Youth Director of the San Diego Task Force on Unaccompanied Youth.
It was in that role that she testified in front of three California State Assembly and Senate committees in Sacramento the week of April 1.
“It was amazing,” said Louttit. “All of my dreams were coming true at once to be able to educate lawmakers.”
Louttit says she has been working her entire life toward having a soapbox to be able to work for this cause. “It’s something I’m really good at,” she said. “California has a higher rate of homelessness among youth than any other state – it’s disproportionate. There are nearly 250,000 homeless children and youth enrolled in California public schools.”
The first bill Loutitt testified for was AB 309, which would clarify a policy that categorically denied food stamp benefits to unaccompanied youth under the state’s CalFresh program. For example, the bill seeks to break down barriers to access by ensuring that social workers are defining 'household' when interviewing youth applying for CalFresh because the program’s definition is different than what the rest of society considers belonging to a household.
The bill passed the Assembly Human Services Committee unanimously.
In front of the Senate Education Committee, Louttit testified on behalf of SB 177, the Homeless Youth Education Success Act. The bill would make sure all homeless students are aware of their many educational rights. It would also clarify existing law so that foster and homeless youth are immediate eligible to participate in school sports.
“Sports help create a clearer path to higher education for these students,” Louttit says. “There are so many benefits of playing sports.”
The bill would also create a working group between the California Departments of Social Services and Education to address the unique needs of unaccompanied homeless youth, minimizing youths' fears of reaching out to liaisons and seeking the services they have the rights to access.
“They don’t need to be afraid,” said Louttit. “It isn’t a crime to be homeless.”
SB 177 passed the committee unanimously and Louttit was pleased that Senator Mark Wyland, a Republican from Escondido, asked to sign on as a co-author, making this a bi-partisan bill.
Louttit also testified for AB 1068, which would allow homeless youth to consent to the release of their educational records on their own. It also ensures that these students are tagged by the school district’s homeless youth liaison.
AB 1068 passed the committee unanimously.
“Homelessness among youth is really becoming a high-priority issue on the radar of our legislators,” said Louttit. "If all of these bills become law, California will become a national role model,” she says.
And Amy Louttit knows that she is playing a role in that with her outspoken advocacy. The California Legislature has not seen the last of her as she plans to be there more in the coming months to continue lending expert guidance to legislators concerned with the issue of youth homelessness.